Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Pair of Red Clogs FIAR Unit Study

We "rowed" A Pair of Red Clogs, by Masako Matsuno, illustrated by Kazue Mizumura for two weeks. We didn't necessarily plan on that, but between sickness in the family which kept us from school for a couple of days, and the fact that the weather theme connections to this book seemed endless, it became a longer study for us. (Have I mentioned lately that I *love* the flexibility of homeschooling?)

Here is how it all worked out:

Monday: Social Studies
 As always, we began our unit by placing the story disk on our map. Now that we have other disks already placed, we could have some great comparative conversations. I deliberately chose to row "Clogs" right after "Ping," so that we could make some compare and contrast statements between the two books. I asked the children, "since these two story disks are so close on the map, do you think the locations where each story took place might be similar?" The kids used Ping, and our study of China last week, to remark on similarities between the two stories (and countries) as we read during the week.

We studied Japan a lot during the first week, particularly focusing on map work. We created a Japanese flag, colored the country of Japan on a world map, and then found the US, where we live. The kids were impressed at how far away Japan was from our home! We added these pieces to our paper bag book for the unit (see video at the end of this post).

Part of our cultural exploration of this unit involved re-creating a traditional Japanese meal like the one Mako experiences in the book. Since we lacked kimonos, we used bathrobes and slippers to simulate proper attire. Ava even helped me put up my hair in several small buns as the women do in the illustrations in the story, although my hair is far too short to do this justice. We then ate sushi and tried chopsticks, and even drank some (decaffeinated) green tea and knelt on the floor for the meal.  I was surprised to find that the sushi was a big hit with our kids.

Tuesday: Language Arts
We did more reading words with this book, choosing this time words with both relevant meaning and repetition throughout the book.

During our second week of study we talked about the onomatopoeias in the story (no one remembered the term, but everyone understood that we were reading words that sounded like the sounds they described). We talked about why the author might have chosen to use words like this to describe the sound of Mako's clogs on the pavement, and my oldest volunteered that it was likely because the author was trying to make the scene as vivid as possible by making the sounds realistic. (Sounds good to me!)

We did some copywork from Homeschoolshare as well. 

Wednesday: Art
One of the projects we did involved making a sun to represent the "fair weather" which could be predicted using a clog-throwing game Mako and her friends perform in the story. I made the project simple to appeal to my younger learners: I cut a large circle and some lines from yellow construction paper. I gave the girls markers to color them in and glue to adhere the rays. This worked quite well- sometimes simple is best. Ben had no interest whatsoever in the pencil-drawing activity I proposed, so I let that go for now.

The following week I printed out a coloring page (also from Homeschool Share) and the girls just colored. No fancy art projects this week- I just didn't have any takers!

Thursday: Math
We counted. A lot. We counted clogs in the story, we counted kids on a page, we counted shops at the market... you get the idea.

I got a little sidetracked a few weeks ago, worrying about whether or not we're doing "enough" with the math and language arts pieces of the FIAR curriculum (mostly I was worried about the math). I re-read the intro section of the teacher's manual however, and instantly remembered why I love this curriculum so much. I had forgotten that math during FIAR time is supposed to be applied math, not necessarily skill building/learning new concepts. It's the time when the kids get to actually use the skills that they're using from their (separate) math studies. This realization comforts me tremendously, and gives me permission (at least in some sense), to let math and language arts be simple, straightforward review or application of concepts. It's great for the kids to know that the things they learn about in their math workbooks can be applied to anything- including our story row for the week.

With that in mind, we also did a lot of work with money as our playscape for this unit was a store. See below for details.

Friday: Science
We had a lot of fun doing weather experiments with this row. I fully admit that a couple of these, like the rain and the cloud experiments below, were more for show than anything else because both were a bit over my learner's heads. Still, the desired result was achieved: the kids started asking questions about the water cycle, and that's perfect for now. To reinforce the cyclical nature of the cycle I used this water cycle chart from 2 teaching Mommies.

We made it "rain" using this tutorial.
You need a kettle, ice, a mason jar and an (optional) water cycle chart to explain what children are seeing

See? Rain!

We continued using our weather charts in our morning binders to track the weather patterns. (A detailed post on how we use morning binders is coming soon.) Although we do this every morning regardless of which FIAR book we're reading, this week we played the "clog weather guessing game" that Mako plays with her friends in the story to try to predict what the weather would be like during the week. We charted our "predictions," then charted the actual weather on our chart. At the end of the week we compared our results.

Not shockingly, clog throwing is not an effective weather prediction tool. 

Here, we are throwing our sandals, the closest thing we have to wooden clogs.
 We look just like the characters in the book, right??

Ava found some cloth slippers she felt looked more Japanese than her rubber rain boots, and it was these slippers which *best* predicted the weather. Perhaps our inaccuracies were due to our shoes not being authentic wooden clogs? Yes, perhaps.

 Here is our set-up for weather in our morning binders:
This weather chart is from Funshine Express, leftover from my home daycare days. They don't seem to sell this version anymore, but I did find this one. I laminated the chart and cards, and we affix cards to the chart each day with Velcro dots.

Using this thermometer pull tab and these temperature tracking sheets, we tracked the temps all week. It was a great week to do it, as we had some unseasonably high temperatures and the "mercury" got to move around a lot!

We made a cloud using this tutorial from the NOAA.

There were so many weather experiements to choose from (check out my Weather Ideas board on Pinterest here), but in the end I picked the ones with the least mess with the greatest "WOW factor," and making a cloud was pretty high on that list.

 Other ideas we incorporated into this unit:

Our sensory tray simulated snow. Given the emphasis on weather this week (and given the fact that I needed to grate some soap to make laundry detergent anyway), we made a snow sensory tray to play with.
 I know this is pretty pathetic, but this is the best we could do for a Japanese doll. (Note to self: purchase more multi-cultural dolls!) Ava saw this doll had braids like Mako, and we tried to make a kimono for her, like Mako's, with felt and ribbon.

The red clog card on the tray is from this Red Clogs memory game from Homeschool Share.
 This is always a popular sensory tray at our house.
 Our playscape this week simulated the store that Mako went to with her mother. We included flowers, fruits and vegetables, fish, and wooden clogs for sale (and added a cash register and shopping basket).
 I used Google translator to put up a sign that said "market" in Japanese...

 ...and used Google Images to print examples of Japenese money for the kids to use in their play. (This spurred a great conversation about why we weren't using our "regular" money- the American money to play this week.)
 Our store sold "clogs" (our slippers), wooden fruits and veggies, and cardboard fish. So simple, and yet the learning from this portion of our unit was by far the most organic and most effective.

 Here is my favorite book-reading moment from the two weeks we spent on this book:

 Want to see a three minute, incredibly amateur video about the paper bag book I used to keep all of our learning experiences this week?


  1. Are you all ready for this? Because I don't think you are. Am I the only one super excited about a bathroom makeover?! Well, maybe. If you've been following along, you've watched our bathroom go from this... learn how to sew

  2. I loved the food in Japan when I visited some years ago. mine



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